There Is Such A Thing As A Free Cappuccino...

Every weekday from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., Lead Pastor Darrell Maston and his crew give out free coffee and hot chocolate from the parking lot of Center Church, at the corner of San Jose and Louise, directly across the street from Patrick Henry Middle School.

So what kind of hoop are they gonna try to make you jump through? After all, we're not talking drip here, we're talking cappuccinos and espressos.

I wanted to get to the bottom of this, so I headed to the portable coffee cart and peppered the boss man with questions.

What are you doing here, and why?

We are handing out free espresso drinks and hot chocolate, and on Thursdays we do Krispy Kremes, and it's all free. We roll out here about 6:30, get it set up by 7:00. We're doing it just 'cause we want to be a blessing to our community, and let them know we're here. People wonder why we're doing it, and it's pretty much as easy as that, just to be a blessing. Today we did 120 drinks in about 45 minutes time.

What impact does that have on the traffic around here?

If we did 120 drinks today, that might have been 60 cars or so off of the main boulevard, which is a crunch over here at San Jose and Louise. And they're able to drop their kids off as they go out the back exit of the church, and the kids can cross at the crosswalk. So it is getting cars off the street, and helping parents out with a drop off point that's safe.

It also lets people know that the church is here too, right?

Absolutely. The church has been here a long time; our team has been here a couple of years now, and so we're just kinda getting started. It took us a little while to get our bearings, and now we're doing lots of stuff. We're doing this every morning, tons of kids are coming over for our skate park in the afternoon, we have a student store and hang center/drop-in center after school, probably two or three hundred students every day here in our facility, and that's really cool. It gives them a safe haven to hang out until their parents pick them up.

And you do some music events as well?

We did a music series this year -- we did a jazz night, a Brazilian music night, our last one which was a big kick, a lot of fun, was our classic rock night, and this Saturday at 6:30 we have a Flamenco night. Incredible players. The group that's playing this Saturday has played for Arnold Schwarzenegger, and these guys are really well known around the L.A. basin.

And you're a music lover too, right?

Well, I'm a music lover, not necessarily a musician. I'm a hacker probably, but I do play drums. I'm glad we have real players that play here at the church. All of our worship band on Sundays are all professional guys that do this for a living and so we're really blessed to have some incredible players.

Why do you do these types of events?

I think sometimes there's a misconception of Christians, that they don't relate, or that they're not relevant in today's world, that we kind of live in this cloud that's out there and we don't relate to anybody. We're just kinda real people here. I'm not bagging on anybody else, but we just feel like God's put something incredible on us and can be shared in a way that isn't always in your face. We have a message, and we do our best to relate to people.

We're here to serve primarily. That's what my team does, we just serve, and we get a kick out of it. It used to be the case that a city was established with a church in the middle of it, and then they would build the city around the church. The church had influence and impact on the city. And then I think that over the years churches kinda got busy doing what churches do, and forgot about their community that was there that they were put in the middle to serve.

We're trying to re-establish that, going back to our roots of serving the community. So I think that people have a misperception -- that churches are just interested in building their little kingdom, always asking for money, that kinda stuff. Which is one of the reasons why we try to do as much as we can free, just sending of that vibe that hey, we are also giving in our community, we're not just here to do services and have people put money in the plate. We're giving back.

I'm going to be brutally candid with you...

Go for it.

And tell you my stereotype of Christians is, "We hate gay people, and we're here to support the Republican party." Those are my stereotypes of Christians. Now bust them down.

Wow, you're going for my throat! (laughs) I think it would be obvious that as a Christian the bible would be my standard of living. We have people in our church that are Democrats. I don't use my pulpit to be partisan. I don't preach politics, I preach the bible.

As far as gay issues, I know that there are certain churches that have been very vocal -- it might even come off as gay bashing. We don't do that. We believe that God created everyone. There are people that have made choices with their lifestyle, I do not judge that. I would do my best to talk with somebody, try to understand them, understand where a person's coming from. We've had gay people that have attended here. We had a lesbian couple that put their children in our programs, and we accepted them into our church and let them come in and worship with us and we have a family environment for them. What I teach has not been about dividing or cutting in terms of what we feel about people's choices as far as the gay lifestyle.

Okay, so do you have to be Christian to get coffee here?

Not at all.

And if I come and get coffee here for free are you going to try to convert me?

Not at all. We'll love you just like we love anyone else driving through. We don't ask about your spiritual or religious preference, or your lifestyle preference. We just give out the coffee.


  1. I loved this article!! I often wondered what all the hubbub was about on that corner. I live 2 blocks down San Jose. I feel as you do about the "stereotypical" christian. Actually Christians are cooler than Catholics. Catholics are the haters. He was very honest and spoke intelligently, I'm sure he's a great pastor. As a non-religious person, it's refreshing to see that. Keep up the great work!

  2. I wouldn't be so quick to characterize all Catholics as haters. They have a strong tradition of working for social justice, and they also accept the science of evolution.

  3. Someone should tell this dude that homosexuality is not a "lifestyle choice", duh . If they really want to give back to the community they should instead try feeding real food to actual people in need. This sounds more like guerilla marketing for the church. After all they do have a lot of competition here in Churchville.

  4. I do have to admit that the term "lifestyle choice" sets off some alarm bells, but it could be a hell of a lot worse....

  5. Let me again reiterate, that when I start a cult, you would be my dream "roper". Ahhh! You would be such a good "roper". Will you be my roper? A roper is someone who is exceptionally good at attracting new members and keeping them until the low protein diet and repetitive chanting work their magic. You would be OUTSTANDING. They say the best ropers are the hardest to break.

    The "free gift" automatically triggers an instinctive desire to reciprocate. This is a cult. BURN DOWN THE CHURCH. LEADER COMMANDS IT!

  6. What's wrong? It's just a nice free cup of mind-control juice -- er, oops, I mean "coffee"... and coffee will make you a good, productive citizen. You want to be a good citizen, don't you? DRINK THE COFFEE!!!

    But seriously, F, you need to work on squelching that reciprocity impulse if it's causing you trouble. Learn to take. Obey that little voice in your head that says, "gimme." Cultivate your selfish side. I think that drinking more caffeinated beverages might help.

    After all, you owe it to us.

  7. As a memeber of the Center church, I have to clear some of the fog, we excepet EVERYBODY because we are following the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He gave his life for every single person on the planet and every single person yet to come. He served everyone and loved everyone. Jesus didn't ever turn away anyone, but accepted everyone for they are. Giving out free coffee and specitly drinks is our way of serving our community. And believe it or not, not all people who are "in need" are poor financially. But I understand your concerns, I wasn't a God person once before, and I was skeptical of "nice" churches. But the reality is the Center is a true example of what God meant a church to be. Fun, Close, a meeting place to worship and praise Him, a support group, a friend, a giver, a server, a place to turn to when in need, and an example of who He is in our Lives. If you still question us, just come in one Sunday and check it out, then despite whether you like it or not, you can put your quizitive minds at ease. :)

  8. Because quieting down "quizitive" minds is what being a good following Christian sheep is all about, right? Don't ask too many questions, just do what we say.

    By the way, "memeber," "excepet," and "quizitive" are not words.

  9. We're all God people, anonymous. And "devil" people too. Even you blessed givers of coffee and fried doughy treats who are also seemingly forbidden to use spell checking software.

    I'd say that physical hunger trumps spiritual hunger, no ? Nobody's going to worry about eternity on an empty stomach. Put that promo budget to better use.

  10. Ted's Thoughts

    Just two thoughts, first I did not read any questions about what other ways the church is helping the community locally and globally regarding food, shelter etc. so to assume they are not is a huge and unfounded assumption. Second, I wonder if those giving out the coffee were some other group besides a church or christians would I be reading different posts. It appears we are more inclusive and accepting with most everyone else except christians and churches. How tolerant are we?

  11. Hey hater of Christians and simple acts of kindness. You need to chill out! You are judging them and saying that they are judging you! Talk about HYPOCRACY!!! You are so caught up in what you want to preach you miss the piont! A simple act of kindness with NO strings attached. Whether or not someone comes to church is not the piont here, showing kindness is the piont.
    As far as money, you are so sure that money is being wasted and that people who need to be fed are not being fed. Do you need food? Did you ask if they help people in need? The Devil wouldn't want him for your cult, 'cuz he can't hate like you do! If I spell bad, give out coffee or feed the hungry you will still judge and hate and then say we judge and hate. You will still do nothing as we still try to do something! So when you get off your butt and do something other than write hate mail, let us all know.

  12. No hate, just informed cynicism. Jesus is just alright with me.

  13. I don't know why people are so worked up about a church giving out free drinks and donuts. Maybe they missed the free part. It's a really nice thing to do, especially for busy parents who work and drop and pick up their kids from school on top of that. Every. Day. For at least ten years.

  14. WOW didn't know coffee could cause such a discussion! For the record, the CENTERchurch has through the years fed the hungry, clothed the naked and visited the imprisoned. They have a relationship with several outposts that are helping in these areas as well. Currently we support several missionaries at home and abroad that are teaching and feeding in places that I've never been and maybe many of you as well. We have taken teams to feed the men and women at local missions as well as participated in disaster relief efforts such as Katrina. It would be obvious to most that we are a Christian church and would by virtue of that teach the Biblical, Christian message. We are not launching some effort or as it was put "guerilla" marketing, for poor, unsuspecting people that we can some how magically manipulate off the boulevard. Sad that people can't do, "Random acts of kindness" without being criticized for it or marked as a cult as a result of it. Many people that do drive through are not Christians and there has been no attempt on their lives to convert them. The church IS simply doing something good in their community. As far as reciprocity goes, there are lots of thank you's that do come our way and quite frankly, that makes us smile. If you ever took the time to visit the church, you'd find an incredibly culturally diverse group of people that have a deep passion to see their world change. It's been proven many times over that government programs have far little success compared to that of the church and so it would appear to me that the church is doing a fair job at caring and sharing with others. So rest easy, those that may feel that the church is full of haters and "ropers", undoubtedly those types are everywhere and in everything. However, this church, the CENTERchurch, is more interested in helping people than filling the seats! If people want to come, whether invited or not, they'll find themselves welcomed here. If people don't want to come, for whatever reason, there are lots of other choices out there for whatever they may or may not be looking for. As for the "dude" comment, sorry if I didn't approach that in a way that would have said it in a way that you would of approved. You see people, I haven't found perfection on the planet anywhere yet and although there may be lots of folks trying, no one's arrived! So, you'd like to think that we could allow people to do something good and leave it at that. OBTW, glad to know Jesus is just alright with you!

  15. Having read this column for some time now I have never witnessed this kind of disrepectful dialogue. People need to grow up and understand some things about life! All of the comments you posted about a pastor and church and motivations that you know absolutely squat about are just rediculous! You guys need to get jobs or find something that occupies your time more. I drive by and through almost daily, I don't go to their church nor do I plan on it. But what I do know is, from what I've seen this church doing over the past couple of years, is more than I've seen any BIG or SMALL organization of any kind do in some time here in our community. Hats off to the Center, they're making a difference, where most of you just talk about it! It's not about gay or straight, or rich or poor, it's about love. Try spreading love instead of your biased crap and the world would be a better place. They also free of charge allow my children a safe haven throughout the week until I pick them up. I've met most of the staff and they are all sincere loving people. To all the "informed cynics" out there that would rather talk than do, you need two things, 1) to drive through and get a cup of love, 2) get a hug from your mom, cuz you definitely need one!

  16. Yes thank GOD for a safe haven for the children ( think of the children !) in this crime infested moral cesspool we call Granada Hills. Your church is truly to be commended for coming into the this queer lovin' shithole of a town, bringing your cups of love and uh, donuts of peace to the youngsters and their beleaguered parents. All whilst admirably restraining yourselves from revealing your true missionary positions.
    Bravo, Jeezers !

  17. Well, I did it! I read through the craziness of this morally twisted discussion and have come to one conclusion: I'm personally glad we have a church in our city like this one! After looking at most of the previous blogs, none seem to strike a nerve like this one! Call it what you want, the church is doing a great thing and they are to be commended! As for the people that can't dialogue without swearing and spouting vulgar inuendo, Bravo right back at you and hurray for the church's great work they're doing!

  18. Pretty interesting stuff! Thanks for all the waves this morning and the smiling faces as you passed us by! We served 124 people in about 45 minutes. We've been able to meet so many great people of our great town! Thanks for driving through Granada Hills.

  19. I am so sick and tired of ignorant people. They spew their insults behind "anonymous" and talk out of their backsides! You know our planet's in trouble when people write rubbish like this this and pass it on as informed cynicism. Freedom of speech is wonderful, but the very freedom's that we cling to have been trashed by people that abuse them! Can you people reverse for minute and see that this is a CHURCH! Who cares if their ultimate goal is to add members to their church. That's what churches do. If it's a gimmick, let it be. You've undoubtedly fallen victim to the FREE car wash by the pep club, cheerleaders or speech club! Did you attack them and say they had some underlying cultic mojo happening? No, you either got your car washed or you didn't. So in an effort to bring some form of intelligent, informed and THOUGHTFUL balance to this unfortunate poo slingin', JUST DO ONE OR THE OTHER! Get you car washed or keep on driving! Pretty easy conclusion...leave the CHURCH alone for goodness sakes!

  20. But it's so fun to make fun of CHURCHES and make the CHURCH people get all bent out of shape and furiously defend themselves. It's a good time for everyone !

  21. Are you freakin' serious people? Name calling and childish responses to grown up issues! I am completely and positively impressed by this church's heart! The pastor sounds like good people and I'm personally impressed at their dedication to roll out of bed so early to come every morning to do something for free! Somebody should write the Chamber or Neighborhood Council and let them in on what cool things this church actually offers! I think we could stand to have more organizations and churches like this in our city. I haven't been yet, but I fully plan on driving through this week and seeing for myself what's up. My neighbor goes often and she's quit going through starbucks because she likes The Center Coffee better...we'll see how it goes and I'll be sure to let you know.

  22. I personally think conversation is great... whether it sparks passion, cynicism or whatever at least there is an exchange of thoughts, opinions, etc. Many hide behind the mask of Anonymous because they've not been given a venue to voice what they really think and feel. Hopefully when they read their words back and the reactions of others to them that will cause them to think and grow. I believe dialogue is healthy and though offensive to some it will not stop us from being who we are or doing what we do. I serve coffee on Thursday mornings. I want all to know that our motive is NOT to get people to come to our church. When this idea was conceived in the hearts of our pastors their motive was very simple... to "touch" the community. Our motive is to come outside of our four walls and let our community know that people "care". I don't think it really matters if we wear the label "church or Christian" or not and I'm sure if you polled those who drive through they may not even see that as an "issue". We care about their children. We care about what's going on in their lives. We pray for them after we pack up CENTER coffee every morning before going off into our days. We don't want to throw the Bible at them. We don't want to push our doctrine on them. We simply want to say, and give something to warm them up, especially on super cold mornings, "Hey I don't know what life will bring you today, but here's a smile and a loving touch to help start it off right." In the African American community we have something called "soul food". Well the motive behind soul food is that ma or grandma poured all of her love into making a meal for her family which was the most she could give at times because there was no money to give other types of gifts. This is what we do. We pass on the love, that God has placed in us, through smiles, hugs, waves a hearty "Good Morning!" I know it is hard living outside of what we live in daily, which is the love and security of God, and not find our motive hard to digest or confusing or conflicting. I once had a conversation with a homeless man who I let into our church it clean himself up, to shave, wash, etc. He said to me on parting... "Christianity is summed up in one word... caring".

  23. I guess some people find humor in unfunny things. Anonymous November 15, 2009 10:02 AM. BTW If you go back and read the thread you'd find out that there is a BIG difference in letting people know what they do and defending themselves. I took the plunge and went in for myself this morning. Waiting patiently (I've waited way longer in Starbuck's Drive throughs!) they came and took my order. With runners serving both lines they were as efficient as In-N-Out on Balboa. Arriving at their mobile station, I was very surprised to see an organized operation and professional equipment that you'd find in a fancy coffee joint. they got my order right and I was on my way! Great experience and no pressure anywhere to be found. I will definitely go back and seeing all the other happy people driving through, THERE'S NO NEED TO DEFEND THEMSELVES. What they do STANDS on its own merit! ZIP IT haters..ZIP IT!

  24. How can they afford to give out unlimited free cioppino?

  25. LOL L.J. But no artificial stuff here! We have private/corporate donors that donate toward this ministry as well as many other missions works. Crab sounds tempting but then there's that whole spoiling thing and food issues and allergies. We'll just stick with the Java and Thursday Krispy Kremes. :) Hopefully we'll see you in the morning! Today 112 served in rouoghly 45 minutes. Thanks for the support and friendships Granada Hills!

  26. If you really wanted to serve to community and god, you'd serve crab.
    Think of the children !

  27. Hey comedian...last anonymous, you're living proof that people that TRY (notice try) to be funny usually aren't! Think of the readers!

  28. The thread that I notice running through this conversation: Don't make jokes about the church, don't criticize the church (you're a hater if you do), and if you question the church, you're cynical, and a hater.

    What the church supporters seem to be incredibly naive about is the reasons why anyone could have any suspicious regarding the motives of religious groups.

    Here's an excerpt from an article in this month's Skeptic Magazine about religion:

    "In Alexandria in 415 AD, a Christian mob attacked a woman, stripped her naked, and dragged her through the streets. She was taken to a church where she was torn apart and set ablaze. The woman, Hypatia, was an accomplished mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher. She was murdered because some of her ideas differed from the beliefs of her Christian attackers...."

    "In Rome in 1600, a group of Christians condemned a man for violations against the Church. The violator was taken to a market square where he was burned alive. The man, Giordano Bruno, was a renowned philosopher and scientist who held beliefs deemed morally wrong by his killers. Among them, he thought it possible that the Earth was not the only planet with life, that the universe might be infinite, and that bread and wine are not really transformed into the body and blood of Jesus."

    Am I saying that this particular church in Granada Hills that is giving out coffee is guilty of this same type of thinking? Not at all. But these examples show that there is plenty of historical evidence to base a skeptical view of the church on. The sooner Christians realize that, the sooner they can work to make up for this shameful past.

  29. Dear Skeptic Historian;

    Two errors here...1) you suppose that those writing in to "defend" the church are christians or even religious. Huge mistake Sparky! 2) If you studied modern day christianity with the understanding of the bible, you'd understand the huge difference between religion and christianity. 3) Just in case you're not connect with this...You error in the fact that if your life were on display, I wonder how you'd do if you were handing out anything FREE!

    Good thing people aren't sitting around waiting for the church to mess up again! Oh, wait a minute, I guess some still are! If you have kids oh great skeptic, I wonder, will you punish them for the rest of their lives for something you think they did wrong years ago? Probably.

    One request, move into the current generation and at least pay attention and pay tribute to what a lot of churches are doing. By the way, what's in your shameful past....

  30. Ad hominem. Look it up.

    Another question: if NAMBLA were giving out free coffee, would you accept it without question, even if they promised not to try to convert you? No. You'd question their motives, and probaby avoid the coffee. Same deal here. Not saying the church is NAMBLA, just trying to get you to consider a different perspective.

  31. Just another thought skeptic...If we hide behind fear and skepticism as you obviously do, we'll never go outside! I see a church that is making a difference and doing it peacefully while standing for Biblical principle. Now, if you think the Bible as their foundation would be reason to scoff, then I think you're out on that limb by yourself.

    If I don't agree with people, positions or propaganda, then I simply don't attend or visit or participate in their stuff. But unless this nice, peaceful church is promoting religious crap that actually hurts people and tears down others, then I would suggest you NOT look at them cross-eyed or tear down what they're about.

    You know the sad thing about words are you can never get them back...and if you can't say anything good about a group of REAL people that care for our community, our kids and our schools, them you might want to just zip it! :)

  32. Hahahahaha,

    Just came across this LARGE thread! Actually the BIGGEST one Giga has ever had as it appears anyways.

    My thoughts: BRAVO church, BRAVO!

  33. I just came across this thread as well! Wow, I drive past this church almost everyday, and will have to stop by sometime!!

    Honestly, the part about the Christian stereotypes pulled me in a bit more...So true!! :)

    What a wonderful service to the community, and my heart was touched reading about it! Very cool.

    tracy from van nuys

  34. Dear Mr. Brad Laner, You need a hug. Since when did you grow up and get so awfully cynical. Too bad for you, that you'll miss out on all the great stuff happening in our world (through the church and others) because nobody seems to be as smart and intelligent as you!

    It's amazing that the brilliance of your thinking is distorted by the smoke colored glasses that you wear. Hate all, don't trust the church, live miserable...Your motto I presume???

  35. Thought I would chime in and give a status update. To date, CENTERcoffee has served nearly 30,000 people their favorite morning beverages. And yes, it's still FREE! From Mocha's to Vanilla Latte's, Espresso's never tasted so good! We've also added Smoothies and Frappaccino's to our mix (for a nominal charge.)


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